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Friday, May 14, 2021

When will Qatar treat delivery drivers as essential workers?

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By Muhammad Muneeb Ur Rehman

On March 9, Qatar announced that it would close all schools and universities until further notice. Soon after, all major businesses in Qatar, including restaurants, were shut down. While being locked indoors, some people took up new skills like cooking and painting while others turned to online shopping and food deliveries.

Talabat, one of the region’s leading food delivery platforms, announced on March 16 that it would waive delivery fees based on a consumer’s proximity to a restaurant nationwide. It encouraged residents and citizens across Qatar to get food delivered to their doorstep while being quarantined at home. Other online delivery platforms, including Carriage, Rafeeq, and Snoonu, soon followed, intensifying their marketing campaigns. Many of them added new features to their apps.

Talabat’s most recent update included a feature that allows its users to tip the delivery drivers that bring them their food. While many lauded the step, delivery drivers do not feel as excited because, contrary to popular belief, business is not as good for them as before the lockdown.

One Talabat driver from Malaysia mentioned that people usually pay through Talabat credit and do not tip once their food is delivered. While talking to the Doha News staff, he also pointed out that previously more people used to pay in cash and would tip the driver, but now that is not the case.

Delivery workers are frontline workers. Shouldn’t they be paid more?

Talking to another delivery driver, Doha News staff found out that the drivers are only allowed to work six hours during the lockdown. Whereas before drivers could choose to work as much as they wanted throughout the twenty-four hours, now they are allocated six-hour slots, which as a result, has cut down the number of deliveries they usually get in half.

This might all come as a surprise to many as lots of people in Qatar assume that delivery drivers are earning much better under the current lockdown. Dozens of delivery drivers can be seen on Doha’s empty roads, especially around the time of Iftar and Suhoor.

Regardless of what the food delivery business looks like at the moment or will look like after the current pandemic is over, it is essential to realise that delivery drivers are frontline workers. They are most exposed to the virus every day, and these drivers are risking their lives to feed everyone their favourite meal from a list of restaurants. At the same time, they struggle to make ends meet. Is it fair for them to have to risk their lives with little to no compensation? When will they be valued for the crucial and essential work they do?

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